Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Acis and Galatea

Mid Wales Opera , Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama , January-31-14
Acis and Galatea by  Mid Wales Opera The splendid Mid Wales Opera opened its 25th anniversary year with a fresh and charming production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea.

A co-production with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, this opening performance was a gorgeous combination of young talent and aspiring professionals in a show that cannot fail to delight.

Handel’s mythological pastoral opera is a refined and gentle piece of drama that relies on the story telling, emotion and characterisation (where it exists) in the music and song. It is therefore wonderful that every word of John Gay’s libretto could be heard in this tale of nymphs, mortals and gods in their idyllic rural setting. The singing is sparkling from the love-struck warbling o four young lovers to the depths of despair as the singers harmoniously express the emotions of the baroque jewel.

There is also plenty of humour from the young cast as they carry lambs and doves cut outs around the stage and the not so innocent courting between Acis and Galatea and the flirting between other Arcadian characters.

The Cyclops Polyphemus came over as a depressed, forlorn giant rather than a lascivious monster in this smile-inducing approach to the story from director Annilese Miskimmon, artistic director of the Danish National Opera.

Conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, Mid Wales Opera strove for authenticity in the performance and the set and costume designs from Nicky Shaw transported is to the elegant 18th century take on the Greek myth in a production. It will work perfectly as the show extensively tours to smaller and mid-scale venues. This is almost a set within a set as a large box on the stage opens in various ways to create a mixture of spaces, allowing the players to weave in and out of doors, cut outs, around trees and even a large opening aperture for the Cyclops’ eye!

With Brecon Baroque players and a student chorus on the side of the stage, this is a warm and inspired ensemble work from a company that refuses to allow budget and touring bounds restrict its ambitions which, fortunately, are more frequently than not realised.

Soprano Jane Harrington’s Galatea was heartfelt yet robust in caressing Handel’s sweet airs but with a touch of naughty sparkle in her stage delivery while Oliver Mercer sang a perfectly measured and controlled, rather more innocent swain Acis, performed with restrained passion. His elegant voice was well paired with that of the similarly refined tenor of Eamonn Mulhall as Damon.

Matthew Stiff was a loveable baddies as Polyphemus complete with a crown painted with an eye and singing as much pathos as rage. Our chorus comprised Thomas Herford, Caroline Kennedy, Chloe Hinton and Andrew Mahon. In this co-production with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, this was musicianship to be treasured, from love-struck warbling to the depths of despair as the singers harmoniously express the emotions of the baroque jewel.

There is also plenty of humour from the young players in their idyllic rural setting as they carry lambs and doves cut outs around the stage and the not so innocent courting and flirting between these Arcadian characters while the Cyclops Polyphemus seems more forlorn than lascivious in this smile-inducing approach to the story from director Annilese Miskimmon of the Danish National Opera.

While Mid Wales Opera, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, strove for authenticity the set and costume designs from Nicky Shaw gives an elegantly clean and uncluttered take on the Greek myth. This is almost a set within a set as a large box on the stage opens creating different spaces, allowing the players to weave in and out of doors, cut outs, around trees. We had a moment of fun when an aperture opened for a huge, Cyclops eye to stare into the sylvan scene.

With Brecon Baroque players and a student chorus on the side of the stage, this is a charming and inspired ensemble work from a company that refuses to allow budget and touring bounds restrict its ambition and its execution.

Jane Harrington’s Galatea was heartfelt in caressing Handel’s sweet airs but with a touch of naughty sparkle while Oliver Mercer sang a perfectly measured, rather more innocent swain Acis, with controlled passion and pacing. His elegant voice was well paired with that of the similarly elegant tenor of Eamonn Mulhall as Damon.

Matthew Stiff was a loveable baddies as Polyphemus complete with a crown painted with an eye and singing as much pathos as rage. The vocal and dramatic contribution of our chorus members Thomas Herford, Caroline Kennedy, Chloe Hinton and Andrew Mahon could also be fully appreciated in such intimate venues as those lucky to be included in Mid Wales Opera’s extensive touring circuit.

Acis (Oliver Mercer) Galatea (Jane Harrington)
Photo Credit: Robert Workman


Touring to Buxton Opera House, February 2; Hafren, Newtown, Feb 7; The Courtyard, Hereford, February 8; Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, February 15; Cambridge Early Music Festival, Fitzwilliam College, February 21; Theatre Royal, Margate; St David’s Cathedral festival, May 30 and Ludlow Assembly Rooms, September 27.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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